Why Prototype?

In my last post, I shared some tips for creating templates – namely about how to save time. Prototyping your courseware can do the same thing for you, especially when you’re working on a new course or overhauling an old course. A prototype is a small sample of coursework you develop from beginning to end. Below are some other benefits to prototyping. Note: for a more in-depth list (and better writing!), check out Desirée and Diane’s book From Concept to Execution.

Prototyping can save re-work

When you’re extremely busy, it can be enticing to jump right into a project and begin with development of as much as possible. If instead you develop a small “chunk” of courseware and get feedback on that section, you can apply it to all your future work. This is much better than jumping right in and then having to redo hours worth of content after the fact. (Ask me how I know!)

Prototyping can help streamline the project

When you’re working with a team to complete a project, finding shortcuts that help the team work together is important. Working on a prototype can help with that. I’m working on a prototype right now, and found that this programmer likes seeing the logic behind the screen’s design in the storyboard, so including that makes it a lot easier for him to build the course.

Prototyping can help with development estimates

When you take your content from start to finish, it gives you a better understanding of how long and how tedious the development cycle will be. This will allow you to make better estimates for timelines and for pricing quotes. Of course, the first part of a new project always takes the longest amount of time, so take that into account when quoting prices.

Prototyping can be user-tested

When you create a small sampling of courseware, you’re able to take it to market more quickly to get user feedback. You can learn whether it’s too technical, complicated, or frivolous for your target audience. This also gives you the ability to test integration into the company’s LMS to make sure your designs and programming work well with their existing technology. It can be a huge time and money saver to have all of these issues worked out before you begin the bulk of the work.

Prototyping can show progress

When you finish working on the prototype, you have a very tangible product that can help to build team and customer morale. I love when a client comes back to us after creating a prototype and says, “We LOVE the work you’ve done with this. We can’t wait to see more!”

As with all facets of development, there is the investment of time to consider. But I think that when you take into account all of these benefits (including the possibility of saving time in the long-run), you’ll see that creating a prototype can be a very valuable step in your projects.

Nick Elkins

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